A group of more than 50 people gathered outside Thompson Library on Tuesday evening for what it called a “speak out” in response to a video posted on Monday which showed a black man forcibly detained by University Police without explanation.
The gathering, which lasted nearly an hour, drew students from a variety of different campus organizations and featured several students speaking mainly on mental health and what they feel is inadequate attention placed on the topic by the university.
The video that inspired the event was posted to Twitter at 12:47 p.m. on Monday and has since garnered nearly 3,000 retweets. It shows a black man, whose name has not been released, being brought to the ground by police while the man asks if and why he is being arrested.
In the video, a response from the University Police on why the man was being detained was not heard.
University Police said in a statement later that the officers were responding to an “urgent report that a person may intend to harm himself and may have a weapon.” In the video, the man can be heard saying, “I don’t even own a gun.” He was taken to the hospital.
“We’re here today because we’re outraged by what happened,” said Sarah Mamo, a fourth-year in African-American and African studies, and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, who spoke first at the event. “Even if he did have a weapon on him, why would OSUPD force him on to the ground if they actually cared about his mental health?”
Before the gathering began, which purposefully was held about 100 yards from where the man was detained, Taribo Osuobeni, a fourth-year in English, told The Lantern that his friend knows the man detained, and has taken a care package to him. Osuobeni also brought along a shirt he asked those present to sign.
The shirt is a symbol of togetherness and support, Osuobeni said, and will be given to the man when he wants to see visitors.
“We decided to let him know that he’s loved and cared about and let him know that he’s not alone,” Osuobeni said. “It’s something that can hopefully help him through this time. The whole incident takes a mental toll on you. There’s a psychological effect of a man — especially a black man — being arrested the way he was.”
University Police said the man was detained, not arrested. A statement from University Police Chief Craig Stone issued Monday said the officers used “action deemed necessary,” and that the incident was under review, which is standard procedure for cases like Monday’s.
Osuobeni said he wanted to come to the rally to voice his frustration with OSU and their dealings with not just Monday’s incident, but of student’s mental health issues in general.
“I don’t believe that OSU gives one single fuck about mental health issues,” Osuobeni said. “They’re not (doing what they could to address mental health issues). The reason I don’t believe so is I’ve been funneled in and out of the system for the last two years.”
He said that the way OSUPD handled Monday’s incident could be harmful to the now-detained man’s health.
“The fact that someone who expressed he may have wanted to kill himself was handled the way he was, that’s detrimental to his mental health,” Osuobeni said. “You don’t handle someone who is going to kill himself like a criminal. Why was he put on display like that?”
Ben Johnson, an OSU spokesman said in an email that OSUPD has talked to various student clubs in the past two days.
“Ohio State takes seriously the police division’s credo of communication, cooperation and collaboration, and the safety of the campus community is our top priority,” a statement from Johnson said.
Students spoke on the isolation they feel at times, and how, regardless of how lonely they may feel, they have others who care for them and their safety. Multiple speakers called into question OSU’s commitment to mental health, citing statistics about long wait times at Counseling and Consultation Service and how the 10 free counseling sessions students receive may not be adequate.
Briana Spikes, a second-year in art management, shared a poem with the crowd she wrote yesterday night, in response to the events that transpired. The poem called for action against police brutality and included her feelings and concerns for being a black woman in today’s society.
At the end of the poem, Spikes called for those around her to step up and unite against police brutality, racism and violence.
“One or two voices isn’t enough. I want to look into the mirror and see thousands of faces arise from the rough. We need unity to have a voice. It shouldn’t be this hard being that we were born black without a choice,” Spikes said. “This isn’t nothing different. Screaming ‘Black Lives Matter’ when it’s time we fucking defend.”
It was mostly overcast as the lineup of 10 students spoke, but as Mamo returned atop the students for closing remarks, which she said were aimed at striking a more optimistic tone, the sun emerged. Mamo offered encouragement to students who have long engaged in protest movements on campus, but also for the new faces she said she didn’t recognize.
“I know this semester is ending, but I really recommend that you talk to someone, get involved over the summer or get involved when you came back,” Mamo said. “The struggle is not going to go away when you go back home. It’s not going to go away once the semester ends. It’s going to continue. It needs to continue … Funnel your frustrations into changing what is frustrating you.”